AWS Delivers First SAN Services in the Cloud

    Amazon Web Services (AWS) this week announced the general availability of what it claims is the first storage area network (SAN) to be deployed as a cloud service. 

    The io2 Block Express service will play a critical role in convincing organizations to finally move transaction processing applications that still largely run in on-premises IT environments to the cloud, says Mai-Lan Tomsen Bukovec, vice president for block and object storage at AWS.

    Based on the Amazon Elastic Block Service (EBS) Block Express architecture, the io2 Block Express enables applications to take advantage of AWS storage and networking services to deliver sub-second latency and 99.999% availability to database applications that require access to block storage.

    Most of those applications are running on relational databases that many organizations have resisted moving to the cloud because block storage services could not provide the level of IOPs throughput required. 

    The io2 Block Express is being made available initially on R5b instances on the Amazon EC2 cloud that enables an IT team to provision a single volume with up to 256,000 IOPS, 4000 MB/s of throughput, and storage capacity of 64 TiB. AWS plans to make additional classes of ECS instances available as well. 

    The io2 Block Express volumes are available in all regions where R5b is available, including US East (Ohio), US East (N. Virginia), US West (Oregon), Asia Pacific (Singapore), Asia Pacific (Tokyo), and Europe (Frankfurt), with support for more regions planned.

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    Dynamic Scaling with io2

    AWS is betting many organizations do not want to acquire, provision, manage and upgrade SANs. Every time an IT organization runs out of capacity someone in an IT organization has to provision additional storage and then reconfigure the network, notes Tomsen Bukovec. In contrast, the io2 Block Express cloud service is designed to dynamically scale as required. “We already have a massive network in place,” she says.

    Many organizations continue to operate their own data centers because they need to run latency-sensitive online transaction processing (OLTP) applications. OLTP applications often tend to have spikes that require IT teams to over provision infrastructure to handle, for example, seasonal increases in sales. 

    The io2 Block Express cloud service removes the technical hurdles that previously prevented many organizations from closing down their data centers, says Tomsen Bukovec. Organizations that continue to run those applications in an on-premises IT environment will be doing so because of their own internal culture, she adds.

    OLTP vs. On-Premises

    It’s not clear to what degree other cloud service providers will make SANs available on their platform, but it’s apparent that many organizations will need to reevaluate the cost of deploying OLTP applications in the cloud versus an on-premises IT environment. The longer an application needs to run the more cost effective it tends to be to run it in on-premises applications. 

    However, it’s apparent that providers of IT infrastructure optimized for OLTP applications are going to have to fend off increased competition from cloud service providers that have finally cracked the code on SAN services. 

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    Mike Vizard
    Mike Vizard
    Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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